B$54 million budget proposed for MPRT

|     Aziz Idris     |

THE Ministry of Primary Resources and Tourism (MPRT) has proposed a budget of B$54,170,221 for the 2018/2019 fiscal year, which focusses on boosting productivity in all sectors to contribute towards increasing Brunei’s gross domestic product (GDP) while also aiming to tap into the export market.

From the total budget, more than $5.4 million has been prioritised to improve the agricultural output and meet the national rice self-sufficiency target through the usage of high-technology.

This was announced by YB Dato Seri Setia Awang Haji Ali bin Haji Apong, the Minister of Primary Resources and Tourism, during his budget deliberation at the 14th Legislative Council (LegCo) session yesterday afternoon.

He urged locals, especially youths to take up farming and aquaculture to help boost the local agricultural output as youths can contribute towards diversifying the local economy, and help address future unemployment challenges.

“Farming and fishing can be a viable business… It can be very profitable,” he said.

He added that the Department of Agriculture and Agrifood is intensifying its efforts to upgrade the current water and irrigation system at all paddy farms in the nation.

The Minister of Primary Resources and Tourism YB Dato Seri Setia Awang Haji Ali bin Haji Apong. – INFOFOTO

The minister noted that “inadequate water due to unpredictable weather and drought” was among the main challenges faced by local paddy farmers.

With the new system intact and with the introduction of a high-yielding hybrid rice variety named ‘Titih’ , which can yield up to 8.5 metric tonnes per hectare in a season, it is hoped rice production will go up to 7,700 metric tonnes per year by 2020 instead of 2,000 metric tonnes in 2015.

The budget will also invest in high-tech vegetable farming techniques such as hydroponic, vertical farming and greenhouses to curb challenges such as insufficient water supply. He urged all vegetable farmers to aim for the export market.

“The MPRT strategic Plan aims to encourage and provide an opportunity for commercial importers registered with the department to procure vegetables and fruits from local farmers.

“It also sought to reduce fruit and vegetable imports into the country and the risks associated with products coming from abroad,” he added

Touching on the poultry industry, the minister was happy to note that most major poultry farms in Brunei have upgraded from using the ‘conventional’ cage system to a ‘closed-house’ system and have contributed at least 60 per cent to the national agriculture produced.

With the new systems, the ministry estimated egg production to also increase to $289 million in 2020 compared to $106 million in 2015.

The ministry continues to help monitor the farms under the Agricultural Development Area to ensure that the site is utilised in accordance with the conditions set out and following best practices in infrastructure development, nutrition, disease prevention and cleanliness of chicken coops and the workers. The ministry will continue to support poultry farming through advisory services, provision of suitable areas for farming and high technology.

On aquaculture farming, the minister said, “Fisheries, especially aquaculture, is a highly lucrative business venture and is an economic sector that can contribute significantly to our national GDP. It can also create employment opportunities for the locals.

“The Department of Fisheries has $400 million target for aquaculture industry by 2020.

“MPRT will also strive to make the Sultanate the largest global producer of rostris blue shrimp.”